What is a CRM (and Why Is It Essential To Your Sales Team’s Success)?

Sales report on ipad screen

In that big bowl of business alphabet soup, have you ever seen the letters “CRM” and wondered what they stood for? If so, here’s a CRM platform  primer:

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is a system for managing a business’s interactions with its customers, clients, and sales prospects.

In its simplest form, a CRM solution is a database where sales and marketing teams store critical account data such as contact and account information, lead sources, sales activity histories, purchase histories, and marketing campaign data and projections.

With regard to CRM, businesses and their internal sales organizations typically fall somewhere between best-case and worst-case scenarios:

  • Best case: Your CRM matches your marketing, sales, customer service and retention strategies. It’s easy to use and provides reports that eliminate the need for tedious manual reporting. It integrates with other software (for accounting, inventory, etc.) enabling your entire team to view important data and reports in “real time.”
  • Worst case: You don’t have a solid system for managing customer information. The information your business does have is kept in various files or databases that aren’t linked. It’s difficult and time-consuming to create revenue projections, sales reports and marketing campaign reports. The result: lower productivity, lost opportunities and lost revenue. (Even worse: you use paper files!)

CRM

Assuming you fall somewhere below the best-case scenario, why do you need a well-integrated CRM solution?

  • CRM can be a single repository for all sales activity information. It can:

–    Enable multiple departments to see sales process activities and deal progression

–    Keep all sales process communication, history, documents, etc. in one place

–    Ease transitions when a Sales Rep leaves or when accounts change hands

  • CRM can be an important reporting tool. For example, you can use it to:

–    Generate revenue projections for a product, a Sales Rep, or your company as a whole

–    Link revenue to the original marketing campaign

–    Generate lists of leads and activities by Sales Rep

–    View the number of leads by where they are in your sales funnel or sales process

–    Track your progress against your sales goals

–    Manage marketing campaigns

–    Capture leads from your website

–    Minimize the time your team spends creating manual sales and activity reports

Of course, there are important factors to consider when figuring out how to best implement a CRM tools for your company and sales organization, including:

  • Whether an “on premise” or “hosted” CRM platform application is best for your sales team

–    An on-premise CRM gives you control over your data, provides the highest level of security and integration with other business applications. It will, however, require Information Technology (IT) resources to set up and manage.

–    A hosted or “cloud-based” offering provides less control over your data, lower security (in some cases) and less integration, but they are usually easier to customize and also requires less IT involvement to set up and maintain.

–    When choosing between an on-premise or hosted CRM solution, determine if:

      • Your sales team will be centrally located
      • Your Sales Reps will need to have “real-time” access on the road
      • Existing company information systems can be integrated with the CRM
  • Customize to match your business’s structure and terms. You’ll want to make sure your CRM tools fit your business like a glove and makes life easier for all of your users. To do that, consider these factors:

–    “Cloud-based” CRM platforms tend to be much more customizable (typical customizations include layout changes, custom fields, reports and dashboards)

–    User needs and reporting requirements need to be considered up-front. By getting input from users about what they need before any customization is done, you can help make sure that customization is accepted and useful to those users

–    The CRM solution should be customizable to use the terms your company uses. This will shorten the learning curve and reduce the need for case-by-case judgment calls

  • Employee buy-in

–    Tell your team exactly why your company is taking on a CRM initiative (Many users may falsely believe that a key reason a company brings on a CRM platform is to play “Big Brother” and keep a better eye on employees).

–    Communicate the benefits that your team will receive the CRM tools (what will it do for them):

      • Saving time and money
      • Having all the information for an account at their fingertips
      • Helping forecast sales and commissions!

–    Management must set the example by using the tool

Perhaps the two most important factors to consider when choosing a CRM solution are its functional capabilities and how well it can be integrated with other company systems. Ultimately, however, a true CRM solution is about more than technology; it is about achieving desired business outcomes through well-integrated sales and customer information.

There are many CRM platforms commercially available. If you’re not sure how to assess, choose or implement your company’s best CRM solution, contact a Sales Xceleration Advisor today. They’ll help you make your most informed decision for stronger sales performance.